EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.– In the Jets second preseason game the team turned in a much more impressive performance than last week in Houston. It was hardly perfect execution by the Jets, as they still had far too many self imposed mistakes, but it was clear that, even though this was just a preseason game, Plaxico Burress is here to make an impact on this team.
Take away Burress and this game likely turns out exactly like the Houston game, but Burress adds a potent dimension to this team that the offense desperately needed.
The first play on offense was a 20-yard pass to Burress which gave just a brief glimpse of what he can offer this team, the final play of the half for the offense proved to be the icing on the cake as Sanchez hit Burress in the corner of the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown pass to give the Jets a 17-7 lead.
For much of the first-half the offense continually stalled, but they managed to seize on the momentum the defense gave them to punctuate their first scoring drive of the night. After safety Eric Smith caught a deflected pass and flipped the ball to Darrelle Revis to make the return the Jets found themselves with the ball at the Bengals 16-yard-line. Mark Sanchez took over from there, as he didn’t waste anytime giving the Jets their first touchdown of the game when he hit Santonio Holmes on a 16-yard touchdown pass to give the Jets an elusive first-quarter touchdown.
But it was the second touchdown of the night that had everyone talking and for good reason, not just that Burress made a great touchdown pass, but after stalling repeatedly on offense Sanchez led the team on a 99-yard touchdown drive to cap off a solid first-half. With 4:53 left in the first-half Sanchez led a 10 play drive that featured two big completions to Dustin Keller (a 43-yard pass that got the offense rolling and a big third-down completion for 15 yards) before ending the drive with the touchdown to Burress.
“Well I think, the third-down conversions we were working through in a preseason setting. We were trying to go through all our different scenarios versus a specific blitz that they were showing us.” Sanchez said, “So, one of them got batted down, one of them we had a miscommunication with Dustin and I. I’m thinking he’s going to look quick and he didn’t see the blitz coming.
“So that was two of them and one of them I missed the throw, so right there we’re 0-3 on third-down and it looks like ‘Oh man, here we go again the offense can’t convert on third-down.’ So it was a good chance for us to just relax, stay positive, don’t worry about it it’s preseason we’re going through our contingency planning on this blitz, we’ll get them when we need to and sure enough we saw the blitz again in the red zone and we capitalized.”
Vladimir Ducasse continued to struggle, as did the entire offensive line for that matter, but fortunately for the Jets they were able to overcome the shoddy O-line play as well as their own mistakes to build a comfortable lead over the Bengals. Of course all the good could easily be taken with a grain of salt, not only because it’s preseason, but also because they played the Bengals. With rookie quarterback Andy Dalton starting the game for the Bengals, the offense looked scared and confused facing this Jets defense and the Jets took advantage.
Dalton threw two interceptions, the one to Smith and another one to Jim Leonhard, just two drives later, that Leonhard returned for 35 yards to the Bengals 10 before the offense stalled and had to settled for a field goal. The turnovers didn’t stop when Dalton left the game as Brashton Satele made a great play jumping a route and intercepting backup QB Bruce Gradkowski, and tacking on 32 yards on the return, as the Jets defense continued to overwhelm the Bengals.
The struggles for the Jets revolved around the poor performance by the offensive line, too many penalties and an awful running game by the first-team unit who only managed a measly 16 yards on 11 carries, without their bell-cow Shonn Greene playing.
Josh Mauga had another really impressive game, as he filled in for the injured Bart Scott earning precious first-team reps and he made the most out of the opportunity as he was flying around everywhere the ball was. He was only credited with four tackles, but there was rarely a play being made where he wasn’t in the picture.
Third-string quarterback Greg McElroy continued to build off of last week’s impressive start (6-9 for 59 yards and one TD) as he relied on two budding second-year stars in the making. One of those budding stars, Jeff Cumberland, is steadily making himself a known commodity, he didn’t get used quite as much as last week, but still made two impactful catches for 43 yards. The second star was running back Joe McKnight, who suffered a concussion last week, but showed no signs of it as he rushed for 36 yards on seven carries and caught a three-yard touchdown pass on a bootleg from McElroy.
Despite all the things that happened in this game, there is no doubt that Burress was the star of the show, but by no means should Sanchez’s own performance be overlooked. If the Jets can get this type of performance from their quarterback they will find themselves hosting some home playoff games, but it’s still important to remember this was just a preseason game and Rex Ryan will be the first to tell you that.
“I thought Mark had a heck of a game. He was smart with the football, protected the football and made the throws.” Ryan said, “I was proud of the way Mark (played). He was 12-20 for 173 yards and two touchdowns with a 121.5 quarterback rating. I had told him, ‘Too bad it’s not the regular season.’ But he played really well.”
Other Game Notes:
Aaron Maybin recorded a sack and a forced fumble near the end of the game. It was just one play so it’s not something to read too much into, but it’s more than Vernon Gholston ever produced, preseason included (again not saying much, but still nice to see).
Nick Folk continued his up-and-down ways, first missing a 43-yard field goal, before kicking a 50-yard field goal and managing to send a kickoff flying out of bounds. Folk’s competition made the one field-goal he attempted from 30 yards out.
Fifth-string running back Chris Jennings made a strong impression as he ran for 81 yards on four carries, with 69 of those yards coming on one big run.